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The Worst Article of the 2016 Election Cycle: June 7, 2015 Edition



Beltway elites love the myth of the undecided voter. By which of course they mean white voters who lean conservative. That Hillary Clinton is following Barack Obama’s path of understanding the American electorate and focusing on getting out the base rather than appeal to voters in West Virginia and North Dakota who are going to vote Republican anyway is the topic of this fretting New York Times article.

This early in the campaign, however, forgoing a determined outreach effort to all 50 states, or even most of them, could mean missing out on the kind of spirited conversation that can be a unifying feature of a presidential election. And it could leave Mrs. Clinton, if she wins, with the same difficulties Mr. Obama has faced in governing with a Republican-controlled Congress.

Yes, clearly a spirited conversation is going to convince heavily gerrymandered districts in Texas and Pennsylvania and Georgia to vote for Democrats! That’s clearly the ticket for Democrats to retake the House. How come no one has thought of that one before?

To the architects of the Obama strategy, Mrs. Clinton’s approach is not mere homage: It is unavoidable, given that there are few genuine independents now and that technology increasingly lets campaigns pinpoint their most likely voters.

“If you run a campaign trying to appeal to 60 to 70 percent of the electorate, you’re not going to run a very compelling campaign for the voters you need,” said David Plouffe, a top Obama strategist who has consulted informally with Mrs. Clinton.

Yes. That’s because the people who ran Obama’s campaigns were not stupid.

Mrs. Clinton has said repeatedly that she does not want a lonely victory in 2016; she wants to elect Democrats down the ballot. A group of her senior aides met recently with officials at the Democratic House, Senate and governor campaign arms to brief them on the aides’ research and plans for her message and organization. And Senate Democrats are hopeful that she will lift their prospects, because there is considerable overlap in crucial states: The results in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin will almost certainly determine both who wins the White House and which party controls the Senate.

Oh, so this is a super smart strategy Hillary is using then?

“Go ask Al Gore,” Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, said about the risk of writing off states such as his, where Democratic presidential candidates prospered until 2000. “He’d be president with five electoral votes from West Virginia. So it is big, and it can make a difference.”

Centrist Democrats also worry that focusing on liberal voters could lead to a continuation of the problems Mr. Obama has faced with a Congress elected by a vastly different subset of the nation.

“That’s not good for the country,” Mr. Manchin said, adding that he hoped Mrs. Clinton would “come to the middle” if she became president.

Of her campaign, he said, “If they get her too far over, it’s going to be more difficult to govern, it truly is.”

Other rural-state Democrats are sending not-so-subtle messages.

“I think that we always appreciate when people want to kind of talk to the whole country and listen to concerns, and I think farm country is critically important,” said Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota.

Yes, clearly Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp are the real Democrats Hillary should be listening to. After all, their states with a combined 8 electoral votes are clearly going to put Hillary over the top. I mean, sure Al Gore could have gotten over the top with West Virgina’s votes. And he could have also gotten over the top if Ralph Nader didn’t have an ego the size of Texas or if, I don’t know, the Supreme Court didn’t throw the election to George W. Bush. And note that none of this has anything to do with strategy. Manchin says “it’s not good for the country.” Why not? Heitkamp says “farm country is critically important.” To what? Certainly not to Hillary Clinton getting elected president.

“The president is the one person who potentially could be the unifying figure in the country,” said H. W. Brands, a historian at the University of Texas at Austin. “And if the president or a presidential candidate basically writes off 40 states, then how in the world do the people in those 40 states feel like they have a stake in that person or that election?”

I’m embarrassed for my profession there. Who was the last president that unified America? Eisenhower? This is just lazy and ridiculous.

The rest of the article just goes on in this way. In the end, for all that Beltway pundits want to believe that Democrats convincing white conservatives to vote for them is the only strategy to victory because they are the real Americans, it’s just not the case. Hillary (or hey, maybe Bernie!) wins by motivating the base, focusing on winning necessary close states where they have inherent advantages, and maybe pressing to expand the map to North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia while holding on to Wisconsin and Ohio and Virginia. If I thought Hillary campaigning in Louisiana would actually lead to Democratic downticket victories there, I’d support it. But I just don’t see it. Better to focus on high voter turnout among the base.

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